The Good Thief: A Novel

by Hannah Tinti

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Chapter 31 Summary and Analysis

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Ren rebuilds the fire until it heats up the kitchen again. Dolly hangs up his clothes, removes his boots, and announces that he is hungry. Ren gives him some of the stale bread he found and rummages for more food, but only finds two small apples. They sit beside each other and watch as the monk’s robe dries by the fire. The costume was only meant to be worn once per year, so it is in “complete disrepair.” Ren watches Dolly eat, handing him the other apple when the first one is finished. He asks how Dolly found his way back to the house, and Dolly explains that he walked along the road and came across the wagon and the dead horse. Ren thinks about her again, imagining her lying in the swamp with her neck broken. He wonders what she must have thought while she was dying, and whether she remembered the farmer who loved her.

Ren knows that he must leave North Umbrage. He decides that they must leave in the morning and that he is certain he can “make it” with Dolly. He glances around the kitchen, hoping to find anything to take with them. He tells Dolly to start packing. Dolly asks about “the others,” and Ren explains that they will be “better off without us.” He pauses, contemplating whether or not Tom, Brom, and Ichy would truly be better off without him. The twins would feel outraged and betrayed, but Ren cannot risk discovery just because Tom refuses to leave without Benjamin. Furthermore, Tom could not leave right away because of his leg. Ren decides that Tom will be fine because the twins will care for him and that the twins will be fine because Tom will care for them.

Ren begins packing, intending to depart North Umbrage before anyone wakes up. He gathers two blankets, a frying pan, a cup of lard, and two small potatoes. Dolly asks him where they will go, but Ren does not know yet. Dolly says that he has always wanted to visit Mexico, and Ren thinks about everything that Benjamin told him about it. Dolly also suggests California. Ren imagines all of the “new territories” in the west, with their “endless deserts” and “the horizon as far as he could see.” He helps Dolly to his feet and inspects the rest of the kitchen, hoping to find other things to take with them. He notes the piles of dirty dishes, some of them cracked or broken. He finds a jar of pickles in the pantry and slips it into his bag. He only grabs things that he can carry: the piece of the collar with his name embroidered on it, the rock that Ichy gave him at Saint Anthony’s, the fake scalps that Benjamin presented to Father John, and the gold watch with his mother’s portrait. He adds to his bag The Deerslayer, the wooden horse that the dwarf carved for Mrs. Sands, and the drowned boy’s nightgown that Mrs. Sands had given him. He locates paper and ink and sits down to write Mrs. Sands a letter, explaining that he must leave but that “I promise to do what I promised.” He tells her about Brom and Ichy and asks that she take care for them “the same way you took care of me.” He assures her that they are “clean and honest,” despite being twins, and finishes by apologizing for all of the dirty dishes.

After leaving the letter on Mrs. Sands’s bed upstairs, Ren prepares to fall...

(This entire section contains 2014 words.)

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asleep on the floor. Dolly sits down beside him and announces that he has decided not to kill the man he was hired to kill because Ren asked him not to. Ren does not respond, but he shuffles over to Dolly and rests his head against the giant man’s leg. They listen in silence as the rain slows down and stops. Ren sleeps, although not soundly, until morning dawns. He wakes up to the sound of scratching, as though a mouse had been caught in a trap and was trying to break free. However, the sounds are too loud for a mouse and are coming from the hall. Ren investigates and hears the sound of shuffling, as well as the sound of a blacksmith’s file being used to pick the lock of the back door. Ren runs to the kitchen and closes the door behind him. Dolly is waiting by the fireplace, ready to act. Ren runs to the window and sees the hat boys just as they are opening the door and pouring into the house. Ren quickly unlocks the window and shoves it open, but the Top Hat pulls him back inside, and he sees that three more hat boys are attacking Dolly, who is being tied with ropes and wrestled to the ground. He holds one of them by the throat while the others pummel him with sticks. Pilot walks into the room, clapping “as if applauding a performance.” Ren and Dolly cease struggling against the hat boys. Pilot still resembles “a scarecrow, his arms twice the length of his legs” and knocks over all of the plates and uneaten food as he walks across the kitchen. The Top Hat slams Ren onto the table, and Pilot tells him that he has “disappointed” his uncle, “after all the things he gave [him].” Ren replies that he did not want anything that McGinty gave him, but Pilot only says that McGinty is not finished with him yet. He hands a burlap sack, “just like the ones Benjamin and Tom had used in the graveyard,” to the Bowler, who begins shoving Ren’s legs inside it. Ren thrashes against all of them as they force into the bag, but they manage to pull it over his head.

Suddenly, a “huge thundering” resonates across the kitchen, “as if the entire house had been lifted from the cellar to the attic.” The table knocks over, sending Ren to the ground. He lands on one of the hat boys, but tries to wrangle himself free from the bag. Dolly picks him up and pulls him out of the sack. He sees Pilot, whose mouth is full of blood, trying to pull out his gun but his arm appears to have been broken. The Bowler and the Watchman are lying on the ground, and the Straw Hat is dead. Dolly tosses the burlap sack at the Top Hat, who is protecting his head with a chair, and shoves Ren in the direction of the fireplace. The Top Hat breaks the chair across Dolly’s back, but Dolly bludgeons his face with the fire poker “until blood broke over his hands.” Ren sees that Pilot is holding a gun and quickly begins climbing the chimney. His feet slip on the bricks, but Dolly pushes him up the chimney until he is able to get his footing and climb without Dolly’s help. The bricks are still slightly warm from the fire, and dust hurts his eyes. He manages to look down, where Dolly still stands in the fireplace. Suddenly, an explosion vibrates the chimney walls, and is followed by three more. Ren feels “his breath go out and away from him, up into the night like smoke,” and returning to him “with a push of cold air that numbed his fingers and chilled his bones" and made his body remember that “it was just a body” that “could die in many ways.” He knows that he will die if he falls out of the chimney and if Pilot shoots him from the fireplace. He begins to fall, but a rope lowers down to him. Ren holds on as the dwarf helps him onto the roof. Ren immediately turns to the chimney and yells for Dolly, but no one answers. He steps away when he hears someone yelling that he is on the roof. The dwarf is at his side, his hair “wild” and his coat unbuttoned.

The dwarf tells Ren that the hat boys will be on the roof soon and beckons him to follow as he runs to the end of the roof, ascends the raised molding, and jumps onto another roof. Ren can hear the hat boys placing a ladder against the side of the boarding house and, with eyes closed, he jumps onto the roof. He follows the dwarf from building to building, balancing on stone dividers, darting behind chimneys, over skylights and gables. Ren struggles to keep up, especially because the wind is strong and the roofs are slippery from rain. He slips, but grabs a pipe before falling to the ground. The next building is nearly fifteen feet away and three stories below them. The dwarf finds a wooden plank and places it between the two buildings, scurrying across and telling Ren to hurry. Ren, without looking down, slowly makes his way down the plank. However, a gunshot rings from below, sending the plank toppling. Ren falls, but the dwarf catches him by the arm and yanks the board away before the hat boys can cross. They begin shooting at the dwarf and at Ren, and another group of hat boys climb up to the roof to block their escape. The dwarf, beckoning Ren to follow, runs to a chimney and climbs through. Ren tries to fit into the chimney, but it is too small and he can see the hat boys reaching for him. The dwarf pulls him down, but he is stuck. A hat boy grabs him by the hair and another grabs him by the coat, yanking him from the chimney and onto the roof, leaving his shoes behind in the dwarf’s hands.


The possible Orwellian allusion introduced in chapter 30 foreshadows Ren’s capture. McGinty’s hat boys, the symbolic “Thought Police,” track him to Mrs. Sands’s house and tell him that he disappointed his uncle, “after all the things he gave [him].” Their accusation suggests that Ren is not only guilty of insubordination, but also of harboring a different opinion—he does not agree that the things McGinty gave him are desirable. Of course, as in 1984, the goal is less about ensuring that everyone believes the same things. The ultimate objective is to exert total control over a community, and individuality—which is expressed in part by having different thoughts and opinions—can be a precursor to resistance. Ren was not satisfied with McGinty’s gifts because he knows that McGinty intends to hurt him if he cannot reveal who his father is. Ren is not convinced that McGinty is being generous, so he willingly escaped when he was presented with an opportunity.

While the hat boys fight Ren and Dolly in Mrs. Sands’s kitchen, we are reminded that Pilot, the man with the red gloves, is a grotesque character: he is like “a scarecrow,” with “arms twice the length of his legs” that cause him to perhaps inadvertently knock over all of the dishes in the kitchen. Pilot’s treatment of Ren and Dolly, who are also grotesque characters, and his penchant for dismemberment prompt further examination of the ways in which ostracized communities internalize and perpetuate the prejudices used to oppress them. Though we do not know Pilot’s history, we can assume that he was likely ridiculed for his appearance at some point in his life. Now, he is exploited as McGinty’s chief enforcer, and presumably the person who commits the most violent and disfiguring acts.

Finally, while Ren tries to keep from falling down the chimney, he is reminded of his material, corporeal form, which can “die in many ways.” The fundamental threat of death brings him to Benjamin’s level of pragmatism: instead of pausing to make sure Dolly is still alive, he is forced to prioritize his own survival. Though it remains to be seen whether Ren will convert to Benjamin’s philosophy of survivalism, it seems that he is pulled away from his return to idealistic thinking.


Chapter 30 Summary and Analysis


Chapter 32 Summary and Analysis